Welcome to the Roundtable, a forum for incisive commentary and analysis
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
By Jonathan Stahl
Jonathan Stahl is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) with a minor in American Public Policy.
On July 9th, 2013, the eve of the largest American fighting video game tournament, tournament organizers received a message from Nintendo of America, owners of the 2001 GameCube best seller, Super Smash Bros. Melee.  The letter explained Nintendo’s intention to prevent the event from being held. In the end, after intense blowback by fans on social media and gaming news sites, Nintendo reversed its decision and granted the Evolution 2013 tournament permission to host and stream the event.  Although the tournament was a smash hit and the Melee stream garnered a record breaking 134,000 simultaneous live viewers, the message from Nintendo remained a stark reminder to video game streamers that their ability use video game content to entertain viewers is ultimately at the discretion of the video game publishers under current copyright law.
The current Copyright Law of the United States dictates that copyright violation occurs when one “publicly performs” copyrighted content without a license.  The code explains that public performances include not only displaying copyrighted content in public to a substantial number of individuals, but also disseminating electronic copies of the content. With these copyright protections in place, video game publishers have legal authority to ban public tournaments and online video makers from featuring content from their games. Given the explosive popularity and profitability of video game live streaming and uploading onto game-sharing sites, the legal issues of copyright and video game footage has become a salient discussion in recent years.
By Tanner Bowen
Tanner Bowen is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying business.
With the 2014 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. still fresh in the minds of employees across the United States, many women nervously approached what might become of their access to preventive care available under the Affordable Care Act if they worked for a religious employer. Although the Supreme Court ruled that for-profit corporations could not be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception, this ruling created larger implications involving the extent that religious entities can object to the mandate itself. 
Throughout the last term, at least two Courts of Appeals have tackled a new issue: whether a religious non-profit is substantially burdened under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by having to notify the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or its insurance provider/third-party administrator (TPA) that they object to providing contraceptive care to their employees. To give a little more context to the circumstances of this case, one must first go back to the 1990s. For decades, the Supreme Court had used a balancing test for Free Exercise Claims by stating that the government must have a “compelling interest” to impose burdens on religion as well as “no alternative forms of regulation.”  This changed in 1990 when the Supreme Court upheld a ban on peyote in the case Employment Division v. Smith, stating that generally applicable laws can burden religions but not violate the First Amendment. This is when Congress stepped in and in 1993, passed the RFRA to restore pre-Smith analyses .
By Lindsey Li
Lindsey Li is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
Enacted in 1979, China’s infamous and controversial one-child policy has been both lauded as the most effective population control mandate in modern times and criticized as a stark invasion of privacy and a severe violation of basic freedom. However, with the repercussions of a shrinking workforce and “a structural slowdown in the economy” looming ahead, questions arise as to whether the recent legal modifications to China’s long-standing one-child policy are enough to reverse the damage it has already done. 
Prior to today’s population control measures, the world’s most populous nation, at just under 1.2 billion people, was experiencing a birthrate “as high as four children per family,” which often led to food shortages and famine.  In order to ensure that resources were equally distributed amongst individuals to most efficiently contribute back to society, the Communist Party passed the one-child policy. Using grotesque methods such as “forced abortion” and “massive fine[s],” China’s government ultimately managed to decrease births by about 100 million at the turn of the century. 
By Derek Willie
Derek Willie is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
After years of political frenzy, the 2010 BP oil spill, the largest and most devastating oil spill in American history, has seemingly become a relic of the recent past. While it initially elicited transient fury from American environmentalists, awkward apologies from corporate sympathizers, and a few flagrantly inappropriate jeers of “drill baby drill” from fiery tea-partiers, the BP spill, and the resultant penalty for the oil giant, soon became mired in lengthy, complex legal battles with no end in sight. Accordingly, news of BP’s $18.7 billion settlement with the federal government and five gulf states that broke in early July evoked quiet feelings of relief and closure even among once vociferous commentators, culminating in a seemingly insignificant conclusion to a conflict that initially seemed bound to change the course of American energy and regulatory policy. 
Still, many view the putatively massive settlement as a tremendous success. The New York Times lauds the environmental benefits of the deal, noting that it will “provide a significant, continuing source of revenue for the repair and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico’s marshes, barrier islands, fisheries, deep-sea corals and other vulnerable elements of an ecosystem that had been ailing long before the spill.”  From a legal perspective, the deal concludes costly litigation that could have feasibly continued well into the next decade, as details of government negotiations remain confidential.  Even so, BP estimates that it will have paid an aggregate sum of almost $54 billion for the spill, a hefty price that the Times believes constitutes “a deterrent to careless behavior.”  The Washington Post agreed, arguing that the settlement’s terms are in accordance with President Obama’s post-spill objective of “demand[ing] accountability from BP without bankrupting the company” and praising the deal as “a milestone for the environment.” 
By Alicia Kysar
Alicia Kysar is a rising senior at Columbia University studying English and Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Law.
During his appearance on a segment of “Meet the Press” in early July, Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz criticized the current justices on the Supreme Court for “politiciz[ing] the Court.” He accused them of taking sides in the political arena, siding with President Obama’s policies even at the cost of delivering unconstitutional decisions.  He focused on the Court’s upholding of the Affordable Care Act and on its declaring gay marriage a federal right, two issues highly polarizing issues against which he has been very vocal. Whenever the Court makes a high profile, politically impactful decision, there are cries of political bias and of unconstitutionality, so Cruz’s claims are neither surprising nor unexpected.
Cruz then argued that the Supreme Court justices should be subject to retention elections to ensure that they continue to represent the needs of the people several years after their nominations to the bench.  The problems with this proposition are obvious and many sources were quick to criticize Cruz for suggesting it. One of the most salient arguments against his idea is that the role of the justices on the bench is unique in that they—ideally—remain accountable solely to the Constitution, and thus transcend the limitations of daily politics. Their freedom from seeking reelection allows them to express their legal conclusions—ostensibly the conclusions of the best constitutional scholars and judges in the country—fully and directly, without political maneuvering. The conception of the justices is that they, the ultimate voice in jurisprudence, rise above the fray of petty politics to perform authentic, unbiased legal analysis.
By Ashley Min Joo Kim
Ashley Min Joo Kim is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
Singapore today is seen as a commercial and “modern” city-state, continuously progressing towards reforming its society. However, some laws in place call into question how truly modern this nation actually is. Sodomy laws against homosexuals continue to exist in Singapore, despite its growing LGBT population.
In 2003, the sodomy laws outlined by section 377 of the Singapore Penal Code were cast under scrutiny. Section 377, which stated, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animals, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine,” was perceived to be outdated and therefore underwent review.  While section 377 was amended, section 377A, which maintained sodomy laws for male homosexual acts, remained untouched. S377A details, “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years.” 
By Sandeep Suresh
The decision in Obergefell v Hodges re-ignited the debate surrounding the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) and the extent of its authority. Many, including some Supreme Court Justices, argued that the Court has been overstepping its constitutional authority by legislating from the bench.  The sensitivity of the subject matter in Obergefell, the legality of same-sex marriage, enhanced the intensity of the debate, triggering questions of religion, traditions, separation of powers, and state autonomy.
The petitioners in the case, several same-sex couples, had filed suits in Federal District Courts in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee challenging the constitutional validity of the state laws banning same-sex marriage. The US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the bans on same-sex marriages did not violate the petitioners’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process clauses. The appeal against this decision in SCOTUS resulted in Obergefell.
By: Madeline Decker
Madeline Decker is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and an associate editor of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal.
With a rise in breakthrough technologies and innovations, companies are working harder than ever to protect their products from their competitors. There has been a renewed realization of the importance of patents and the invaluable protection they provide. From small business owners to large corporations, understanding intellectual property “is more critical than ever,” according to Darren Dahl of the New York Times. 
Cornell Law School defines intellectual property (I.P.) as “any product of the human intellect that the law protects from unauthorized use by others.”  This definition serves as an umbrella term for many different categories ranging from patents to trade secrets. The United States Patent and Trademark Offices “regulates patents and copyrights from the ‘intellectual property clause’ of the Constitution,” ensuring that an individual’s intellectual property is protected . Additionally, the United States Constitution protects the intellectual properties and discoveries of individuals within Section 8 of Article I, which states that the government can “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing … to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries.” 
By Rachel Pomerantz
Rachel Pomerantz is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
Monumental judicial decisions aside, perhaps the most entertaining news coming out of the final days of the Supreme Court’s session was the annual spectacle of the running of the interns.  The Supreme Court does not allow audio recording while the justices read their opinions, so even though the decisions are eventually posted online, the quickest way for networks to break the news is to have their interns race paper copies of the opinions from the Supreme Court’s press office to the area where the networks are allowed to broadcast. While this event does result in some delightful pictures, it is also indicative of a larger problem in the Supreme Court: its struggle to keep up with the rapidly evolving scientific understanding of the world and technological advancements.
Now, to be clear, it is not the Supreme Court’s job to determine what is or is not scientific fact. In civil and criminal matters, juries answer disputed questions of fact, such as whether or not a suspect was present at the time of the crime, while judges and bodies such as the Supreme Court resolve questions of law, such as whether or not a police search of a suspect’s car is constitutional. Even though theoretically the Supreme Court’s only purview is the Constitution and other laws, it needs a thorough understanding of the scientific and technical issues at hand to accurately interpret those laws.
By Luis Bravo
Luis Bravo is a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
As Philadelphia prepares for Pope Francis’ visit, he continues to make headlines as he uses the papacy's power to incite action in addressing many societal issues. Although the media has portrayed the Pope’s activism as novel, for centuries the Pope’s influence and power has extended past the Catholic Church and into the realm of policy.
The significant trend of political activism began with Pope Innocent III, who led the Catholic Church from 1198 until his death in 1216. Throughout his relatively short tenure he challenged the power of the English Crown, launched the Crusades in an effort the recover the Holy Land, and, most importantly, established the powerful doctrine of papal power within the church and, to an extent, secular affairs. As a result, historians regard him as the most powerful and significant pope of the Middle Ages.